The fatal gang rape of a female medical student in India in 2012 galvanized hundreds of thousands of Indians to take to the streets to demand tougher rape laws. A horrific new case has the potential to unleash similar unrest. The victim was an 8-year-old girl in Kashmir who belonged to a nomadic Muslim tribe, and the details are rough. Police say she was lured away from the horses she was grazing, sedated, and raped multiple times by men in a Hindu temple over the course of at least three days, reports the New York Times. At that point, police say the men killed the girl by hitting her head with a stone, and her body was found in a nearby forest a week after she disappeared, reports the Indian Express. Authorities say Muslim-Hindu tensions are behind the murder of the girl, known as Asifa.
The custodian of the local Hindu temple wanted to frighten away her Bakarwals tribe from the area and saw the girl as a "soft target," say police, per the Guardian. The custodian, Sanji Ram, is among eight Hindu men charged in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two of the eight are police officers accused of taking bribes in their investigation. The murder happened in January, but new court proceedings have inflamed tensions. Thousands of members of a Hindu group linked to the ruling BJP party have marched to demand the release of the suspects, and a large group of Hindu lawyers tried to block the filing of charges Monday at the local court, per the AP. They claim the men are innocent but will not get a fair trial because the investigating officers are Muslim. Protests and counter-protests are now spreading.